Under the Texas code of criminal procedure, an individual arrested for an alleged crime that did not result in a conviction or deferred adjudication generally can have the arrest record expunged from public records. This process is called expunction although many people refer to it as expungement. It is the same thing. The purpose of expunging an arrest is to remove it from public records so future employers, landlords, lenders and other entities that you deal with cannot locate and use that information when making decisions to extend a job offer, enter into a lease and so forth.
Expunging arrests from your Texas public records can be particularly important for employment applications because almost all employers perform background checks and obtaining arrest records through public records is very easy. An arrest record can be the difference between getting a job offer and getting passed over for somebody with a clean record. Even if never charged and the arrest was for a low level misdemeanor. It is my opinion that anybody with an arrest record looking to make a life change consider pursuing expunction.
How to obtain an expunction in Texas (expungement)
The process for an expunction (or expungement) is fairly simple but if you do not properly complete each step then you can delay court approval or end up with the court denying your request to expunge an arrest. You can also incorrectly request an expunction and receive an order from the court to expunge your records but if they fail to order the right government agencies to expunge the records then the expunction (or expungement) will have little effect because public records will still exist on your arrest.
The basic process requires you to file a petition in the proper court. That petition must identify the arrest and why the court should grant the expunction. The petition must also identify each and every government agency that has or may have public records of the arrest. After filing the petition you must request the court schedule a hearing on the expunction and ensure that the district court or you (or your attorney) gives proper notice of the petition and hearing to each government agency listed in the petition.
At the hearing the court may hear from the government agencies regarding why your petition should be opposed but a petition for expunction is typically only opposed if you do not qualify for expunction under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The courts often schedule the hearing for 40-60 days after you file your petition.
If you meet all of the requirements for an expunction then the court will grant your petition. You must then provide the order to each government agency so they will follow the court order.
Who is eligible for an expunction in Texas (expungement)
You may receive an expunction for most arrests if the arrest did not result in a conviction, deferred adjudication (unless a class c misdemeanor), an appellate court overturned the conviction or you received a pardon. There are, however, some ways that you can lose the right to expunge an arrest. If later convicted for any offense related to the initial arrest then you cannot expunge the initial arrest.
If arrested but jumped bail or violated the terms of probation then you cannot expunge the arrest. Certain forms of probation can also make you ineligible for expunction. In Texas there are three ways a criminal charge may resolve with some arrangement with the prosecutor. First, you may accept a plea agreement where you go on straight probation. Straight probation requires a guilty plea. You subject yourself to the terms of probation (community supervision) instead of going to jail. This straight probation is a conviction and you are ineligible for expunction.
Second, there is deferred adjudication in which you plead guilty in exchange for no punishment if you complete probation. Deferred adjudication is ineligible for expunction unless it is deferred adjudication for a class C misdemeanor. Third, you may have completed a pre-trial diversion program or deferred prosecution; in which you completed some probation-like program and the prosecutor dismisses the charge. If you completed a pre-trial diversion program then expunction is an option.
Why you should obtain an expunction in Texas (expungement)
The single greatest reason to obtain an expunction relates to your employment opportunities. Studies suggest 92% of employers perform background checks. It is easy to find arrest records through businesses that perform background checks and simple internet searches. An expunction allows you to legally deny that arrest (for any arrest expunged) to potential employers, government agencies and anybody else who may ask on a form or application. You could lie about an arrest and hope the potential employer does not discover the arrest; but if the employer discovers it the employer may pass on you because you lied. Expunging the arrest avoids that problem entirely.
Arrests for minor crimes like public intoxication, reckless driving and shoplifting can take you out of the running for jobs. For example, a shoplifting arrest might be enough to defeat a job opportunity in retail, banking, insurance and similar jobs. The cost of obtaining an expunction is considerably less than what you will lose in pay and benefits.